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DD Book Club - Last Hand

 
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2019 7:48 am    Post subject: DD Book Club - Last Hand Reply with quote

It's time to finish up the Elektra Saga!

Daredevil Vol. 1 #181 - Last Hand



Quote:
In this issue Elektra vs Bullseye. They've been set to fight each other to see who could be The kingpin's Assassin. One wins. One Dies.


Due 4/6
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2019 4:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been waiting for this for a long time.

I have long claimed on this board that this issue, #181, is the single greatest issue of a comic book ever. Now that I've given it another fresh read, I'm extra sure of that fact.

Frank Miller's original Daredevil run is so remarkable. I'm sure everyone who read #179 in 1982 thought that there was no way Miller could top it, but here he did. This issue is nothing short of genius.

Allow to explain, as if I need to.

The choice to have Bullseye narrate this entire issue is a bold one. He is absolutely a twisted and awful person. It is creepy listening to his thoughts, and seeing how deep his hatred of Daredevil goes.

Bullseye is supremely confident in his abilities, and the prison escape Miller stages is thrilling. He adds suspense by letting us know how many bullets the villain has left in his gun. Once Bullseye commandeers a helicopter and flies out of the prison, Miller pulls an amazing trick -- Bullseye's narration starts to not match up with Miller's visuals. The narrative captions are most definitely from Bullseye's point of view, but the artwork shows us, the readers, things he can't possibly see.

We see Matt arrive home and turn on his stereo. The captions have Bullseye yammering away.
Quote:
I bet you're coming home from wherever it is you work in your secret identity. Bet you're tired too. You want to relax, have a beer, listen to the radio. Maybe you're hearing about my escape, right now. Maybe it doesn't scare you. Maybe nothing scares you. But worried -- you've gotta be worried.

At this point, Bullseye doesn't know that Matt is Daredevil, as Bullseye's narration makes clear. But we're seeing Matt find out about Bullseye's escape. This is an astoundingly creative use of text and image, but it's only going to get better.

Skipping forward after Elektra's murder, Bullseye breaks into Matt's home to kill him. He is certain Matt and Daredevil are the same person, but our hero fools him by having a dummy sit in a chair in front of a tape recording of Matt's voice. It may strain credulity to have Bullseye fall for that, but take a look at what Miller's doing.

Daredevil takes Bullseye by surprise and chases him out of his house. He is furious, and seems intent on taking Bullseye down once and for all. Bullseye feels duped. He is now sure that Matt isn't Daredevil.
Quote:
It can't be.
I was so sure --
You set me up! That's it!
Somehow you rigged that stunt in the morgue with your buddy Murdock -- somehow --
and like a dummy, I fell for it!

Except us readers know that Bullseye was right the entire time, and we're looking at how Murdock fooled him. The next page is even better, as Daredevil chases Bullseye to a nearby rooftop where he has hidden Elektra's sais.
Quote:
Course, it'd mean more to you if you were Murdock.
Then I'd be using your old lady's weapons -- against your billy club.

This is when the issue hits genius level for me. When Bullseye picks up the sai, we are painfully aware of how much that hurts Daredevil. We can feel Daredevil's fury as he kicks Bullseye in the head, and it's odd that Bullseye is clearly not aware that Daredevil's is triggered by the sais.

But the second last page is the topper. We see Matt in the graveyard in front of Elektra's stone, an image of which Bullseye can't be aware. He still narrates.
Quote:
Maybe I didn't get you this time, Daredevil. But I got her, didn't I? I got her good.
I wish that hurt you. I wish she'd been yours, so that you'd spend long, lonely nights staring at the ceiling, thinking about her --
But ya can't win 'em all.
Meanwhile there's your buddy Murdock, who helped you beat me.
How does he feel?

That narration, paired with Miller's images, cuts so deep. Bullseye isn't even aware of the magnitude of the tragedy he inflicted on Daredevil, but we are made acutely and painfully aware.

This is headspinning genius. Miller's choice to employ a narrator, but to have the reader be made aware of more than the narrator --I don't even know if it's ever been done as well in any medium than it's been done here. I don't think a medium other than comics could have done as good a job, and I don't think I've seen another comic make the attempt. I certainly don't think this would have worked this well if this were a film or television show.

I also have to mention how visceral the violence is in this issue. We open on a splash page of Daredevil's head getting shot open, but that turns out to be Bullseye's imagination. The first panel on the next page has Bullseye musing about how much he wants to hurt our hero.
Quote:
You've got to suffer first, oh, yeah.
I'll break every bone in your body -- Grind your spine into powder -- make every nerve you've got scream in agony -- make you pay.

The way Miller writes about the human anatomy, you can't help but feel the damage Bullseye wants to inflict. He's done it thoughout the run, describing "linked vertabrae stretching across a sharply thrust knee." But this issue's most violent moments are practically free of words.

Bullseye's fight with Elektra starts wordlessly. The two never met before this but she knows he is there to kill her. Both fight each other savagely, but she is not ready for his ferocity, and he is overly prepared for her ninja tactics. He smashes her head on the parking lot floor, and she never recovers. She can't stop the ace of spades from slicing her throat, and then he impales her with her own sai. We've all seen the panel. Miller calls it a rape. I personally think he's overstating it, but it's the most violent that Miller had gotten to that point.

Miller amps up the tragedy by having Elektra act on the feelings for Matt she had denied since her first appearance. Given how we're not allowed in Matt's head this issue, it's very effective how Miller shows Matt and Elektra's final embrace from three different angles, as it grows darker and darker. But we're not given time to grieve as we're confronted with Bullseye's visage at the bottom of the page.

I could go on and on, and I'm tempted to. I mean it when I say this is the greatest single issue of a comic book ever. Miller, Janson, letterer Joe Rosen, editor Denny O'Neil and Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter managed to produce the perfect comic book. I have read many great comics, but none better than this. Every Daredevil fan knows this issue like the back of their hand, and Matt was never the same after this. If I could give it a better than perfect score, I would.


Last edited by Dimetre on Sat Apr 20, 2019 1:49 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 01, 2019 6:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This issue is simply a masterpiece.

This story starts with a great recap. It brings everyone up to speed with Bullseye. It even incorporates previous scenes to show it. It establishes just how irredeemable Bullseye is since what he's mad about more than anything else that Daredevil saved his life. He talks about his parole officer who he thinks is a jerk because she wants to help him. There's a possible spelling error in this issue where he's referred to as "Benjamin Pondexter." That always stuck with me because I insisted that was his name and not "Poindexter." Not that either is his name, of course. It happens frequently enough that it's deliberate. This issue is told pretty much from Bullseye's perspective, but the voice over is great when transition from Bullseye to Matt. It lingers on his face as Daredevil appears over it, almost as if it's a fade away to the next scene.

The escape is one of the most dramatic moments told in comics. Bullseye works very well in a visual medium because it allows creativity to be on full display. But nothing about it is silly, just scary. The worst part is when he kills the cop he threatened to kill earlier.

One of the best pages in the issue is the one where Bullseye passes out drunk. The one where Bullseye thinks Daredevil is Matt Murdock and laughs himself to sleep. The page has an almost impressionistic quality where items are exaggerated for emphasis. The top panel is a bottle of booze. It's in its own panel to ease the transition but, if you were to treat those panels as a single panel, that bottle would effectively be the size of his torso. But it's done just to emphasize how drunk Bullseye is. It's able to be symbolic in a comic book in a way that movies could not be.

The focus on Bullseye does give the issue a narrative distance. In other issues, we might have seen Elektra's thought as well as she kidnaps Foggy and then pauses and lets him leave. It's a moment of redemption for her, if only so brief. But the story sells the conflict within her well solely through body language. Then we're treated to two and a half pages of caption-free action before his thoughts return. The fight is brutal. It's close enough to give you hope before you realize that Bullseye is essentially toying with her. Then we have a page turn before the iconic, brutal stabbing. It's not a full page spread but shares its time equally with the aftermath as she struggles, bleeding down the street.

Honestly, while Elektra's death is the big, memorable moment, the bigger kick is when Bullseye figures out for sure Daredevil's secret identity. That leads us to the final act. Bullseye sneaks into Matt's apartment. He hears Matt preparing an argument based on the language in United States v. United States District Court. This is just an aside, but I think Frank Miller handles the legal aspects of Daredevil very effectively. I have no idea if he's doing this deliberately or he just wanted good legal sounding language, but the language was specific enough that I googled it to find that case. That case basically says you need a warrant if you want to wiretap someone. Is it a commentary on controlling power? I don't know. Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked. The next page has a great cheer out loud moment as Bullseye says that he fell for it "like a dummy" as we see how Matt got out of this predicament.

The final fight is great. There's just so many little moments that make each panel wonderful. The fact that there's a train is a great callback to before. The use of the narration works too to emphasize dramatic irony. Matt's fighting Bullseye with Elektra's weapons. Bullseye wishes it was hurting Matt as much as it actually was. We finally get the two pages on the telephone wire. The most important panels are a series of little panels going down the right side of the left page. In that moment, Matt gets the upper hand. The big reveal is on the right side of the page. There's no page turn, but the long series of skinny panels effectively obscures the action until the end. The biggest moment is the ambiguity of Matt's final actions. Bullseye says he will kill Daredevil. He does not want to be saved. There's definitely a sense that he would kill Matt if Matt held on. But Matt's words contradict any benign intent. It seems that he's taking a different path from his choice last time and recognizing that he can't save everyone. Still, it's noteworthy that he doesn't die in the end.

As I said up top, this is as good as it can be. Five Stars.
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2019 3:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike Murdock wrote:
As I said up top, this is as good as it can be. Five Stars.

Would you agree that it's the greatest issue of a comic book of all time?
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2019 4:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe. I've expressed my love for #169 before and I also think #191 is spectacular. Of the Daredevil issues, all three are up there. I think #181 might be the best of the three (although I just love the final three pages or so of 169). The biggest reason I'd hesitate is I don't have much experience with DC books and I know how much people love stories like "For the Man Who Has Everything," which I can't comment on.
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't entirely decide if this story is part of the Elektra Saga or just the issue after it. You be the judge.

Daredevil Vol. 1 #182 - She's Alive



Quote:
Matt can't bring himself to believe that Elektra is truly gone and so proceeds to dig up her grave. Meanwhile, Punisher breaks out from prison.


Due 4/13
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I do think this issue has to be included as part of "The Elektra Saga." They wisely chose to end Visionaries: Frank Miller Volume 2 with this issue.

Since #181 was told entirely from Bullseye's point of view, opening this issue with Matt's thoughts has a stunning impact.
Quote:
Elektra is dead. She died in my arms. I felt her last fitful heartbeat... smelled the blood as it filled her lungs... heard her final death rattle...

This is the first time we read what Elektra's death was like from Matt's point of view. It was undoubtedly traumatic.

I think it's important to realize how complicated Matt and Elektra's emotions were toward each other as all of this "saga" took place. They were each other's first loves, and their initial relationship ended because of a traumatic event. Neither one exited the relationship with any closure, even if it ended out of Elektra's choice. When they rediscovered each other, there was a brief and tender moment between the two, but they both realized that they played for different sides. We actually see Elektra casing Matt's apartment, perhaps to see what his current life is like, but she becomes distraught when she finds out he's in a loving relationship with Heather Glenn. She tries to close her heart to him, even throwing him out of her apartment window when he visits her, but she finds herself coming to his aid and saving his life when he loses his radar. He finds himself coming to her aid against the Hand. Still, he knows he has to make her pay for her crimes, but Miller, over and over again throughout this run, makes the depths of their feelings for each other explicit. They love each other. It's not at all rational, but they are perfect for each other. Matt is constantly seeking a spark of goodness inside of her, and as readers we have seen her come to his aid, so we have seen that spark. But, in the end, Matt couldn't save her.

All the while in the background was Heather, who was always wanting to be with Matt, but had no idea of the emotions Elektra's return had triggered within Matt. She grew impatient as he fought to regain his radar, and this issue marks her first appearance in five installments. In those five issues I can't recall Matt even expressing a thought about Heather.

Since Elektra's reappearance in his life, Matt has been unable to express his emotions for her towards anyone. We see him try to talk to Elektra once, but she hurls him out a window. He mentions her to Ben Urich, but only because she's trying to silence the investigation into Cherryh. Elektra's reappearance has clearly been occupying a heap of space in Matt's heart and head, but he's had to stay silent about it. He couldn't tell Foggy. He couldn't tell Becky. Stick wouldn't have been willing to listen. Matt had to deal with this in silence.

Then a dying Elektra shows up at Matt's doorstep and perishes in his arms.

I think it's a lot to ask for Matt to deal with this with the utmost of cool. And sure enough, he doesn't.

As I read #182 through today, I was somewhat jarred by Matt's internal question of "What made you hurt me so?" That's more self-absorption than I'm accustomed to from Matt. It's hard to figure out exactly to what he's referring. Is he referring to her departure after her father's death? Is he referring to her supposed faking of her death? It's not made clear, except for the fact that he's not in his right mind.

It's also upsetting to see the way he treats Heather. Again, this is the first time we've seen her since #177. Perhaps Matt and her have seen each other off-panel in that time, but clearly they haven't seen each other since Elektra's murder. She doesn't even know who this extremely large-looming figure in Matt's life was. Heather reaches out to tenderly stroke Matt's face, and he roughly grabs her hand, hurting her. He proffers a lazy apology, showing no remorse for hurting his girlfriend's hand. If he ever loved Heather, it's clear that he no longer does.

I find this issue a powerful depiction of a man unable to deal with the sudden loss of a loved one. It's not until the end of this issue that we actually see Matt admit that he never stopped loving Elektra. He was never able to admit that to himself or anyone else earlier in Miller's run. This is a man in trauma and in denial. It's upsetting to see someone we admire so much behave so irrationally, but I can understand why.

In the end, I loved that Matt found Foggy to confide in. At this point, Foggy is in the dark about Matt's double life, but throughout this issue Foggy is able to clearly see that Matt is suffering. While Miller employed Foggy a lot as comic relief, I do like the way he used him in this issue. Their friendship is deep and true.

There is a lot of space in this issue dedicated to setting up "Child's Play," which is fine. The problem is that those scenes don't match up tonally to the scenes with Matt very well. The mood throughout this issue isn't constant.

I have a lot of empathy for everything Matt goes through in this issue, and hold a lot of affection for this issue as a result. I love that it's Foggy to whom he tearfully admits his love for Elektra on the last page, and that it's Foggy who's there to console. I give this issue a 4.5 out of 5.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 08, 2019 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The reason I brought up whether this is a continuation of the last issue is the beginning of this issue is a bit abrupt of a change. Last issue, it felt like there was a bit of closure and this issue takes it all back. Read monthly, I think it makes perfect sense. Fans had a month to think about Elektra's death and debate it and the opening splash page is certainly a shocking one. It's just a close up with his face and that announcement with no context until the page turn, so make sure you pay your sixty cents to find out more!

In another way this is separate is that it's the beginning of the Punisher story that will play out in the next two issues. I mean, he had a bit last week, but he really gets the focus here. The amazing thing is the next story had been written for over a few year at this point but this subtlety bridges that gap so it's not noticeable. Part of it is the fun of the Punisher being happier in prison because it's easier to find his targets. But we also get to see his escape.

With Elektra out of the way, Heather gets a decent progression of her story. I felt like she had come a bit more into her own as a supporting character in the past few issues when Matt lost his senses, which was a nice change from what came before. That first panel of the board meeting is absolutely incredible. It's got such an impressionistic quality but it doesn't need to show more.

The rest of the issue (and its main selling point) is Matt becoming increasingly unhinged in the face of Elektra's death. He's also becoming increasingly violent. Frank Miller's run is known for Daredevil being violent, but this is the first time it feels like senseless violence. In fact, he's finding out useful information about the Kingpin and practically ignoring it for no reason. He also acts like the biggest jerk he's ever been to Heather when she goes to talk to him.

It's also noteworthy that the Punisher gets to essentially do Matt's job. Matt should have stopped a drug shipment but was too distracted to do so. I think it's important that the Punisher isn't merely setting up for the next issue. He plays a meaningful role here. Just as importantly in the Daredevil vs. Punisher debate we'll see next issue, if Daredevil had been involved, there would have been fewer casualties - especially casualties of children. I'm sure there are hardcore Punisher fans who couldn't buy what he did here, but it fits exactly with what and who he is portrayed to be.

The final two pages it all comes to an end (with another great use of a page turn, I'll add). Matt is so confident that Elektra is alive and has his hopes crushed so quickly. Perhaps there's an argument that it's too quick of an end, though. It's barely a page for the whole discovery and processing it after building it up all issue.

Four and a Half Stars. I found this issue to be powerful, although I don't think every moment is quite earned. But it's the subtle moments of his grief turning into rage and how he projects it on others that works best.
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KTiger_44
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 30, 2019 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry if I'm asking similar questions on several threads, but do you guys know where one could read these online?
The thing is that I need some direct injection of entertainment Laughing I've been simulating purchases and rentability for almost all of this commercial property for sale in Germany for a couple days now and badly need some fun.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 30, 2019 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Luckily, this one is very easy to read. Just subscribe to Marvel Unlimited (there might be a free month try out as well). Also, since it's a Frank Miller story, it's on Comixology and you can buy it from Amazon through this trade.

ETA: I don't know if I have time to go back and edit previous posts but I'll try to remember for the future to add places you get the issue.
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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